CHESTNUT HILL – At the moment Steve Donahue and his staff have only one scholarship to give out in the 2014 class. With that lone scholarship, the staff is looking to bring in a power forward or a center who can contribute next year.
The thought process behind bringing in a big is that centers Dennis Clifford and KC Caudill, along with power forward Ryan Anderson, will be graduating after the 2014-2015 season.
Also, there is still very much uncertainty surrounding Clifford and his ailing knees.Clifford had one of his knees scoped in mid-August and the other knee scoped in early September. Coach Donahue expects Clifford to be back on the court by mid-October and thinks the surgery is what the big man needs. Still, even the most optimistic BC fan knows that Clifford’s future will always have some uncertainty with his knee condition.
The top target for the Eagles is Dominique Uhl, a 6-9 combo forward from New Jersey. Originally from Germany, Uhl has spent the last two seasons playing hoops in the United States.
As recently as a year ago, Uhl was considered by most as a mid-major prospect. However, after shining at the Reebok camp early in the summer, Uhl caught the attention of some high-major programs. Uhl has offers from BC, Iowa, Maryland, Miami and Temple. So far, Uhl has visited BC, Iowa and Temple, and he plans to visit Miami soon.
So why does Uhl have the attention of some solid programs? His AAU coach Tony Sagona explained.
“The fact that’s he’s a 6-9 three-man who can take people off the dribble is why he is getting serious interest,” Sagona said. “He is very athletic and can handle the ball. He also has a great attitude and great work ethic, as well. He has taken big strides in his game the last three or four months. He can play defense, too.”
If BC can’t land Uhl, it has other prospects on the radar. It seems Uhl is clearly the top target at the moment, though.
Donahue Loads Up Non-Conference Schedule
Over the past two seasons Donahue has been spending his time trying to develop the skill set of a team that was put together with mostly first- and second-year players.
Donahue wasn’t so much concerned with wins but rather developing his players so that the team would be ready for a future NCAA Tournament run. With that in mind, Donahue and his staff set up a non-conference schedule that was not overly challenging. The BC coaches thought that there was no point scheduling a bunch of powerhouse teams that had the potential to destroy the confidence of the young BC players.
Now that Donahue has his entire starting five returning on a roster of sophomores and juniors, the coach is turning his attention to building a schedule that will help theteam make a postseason run. Interestingly enough, it was the disappointment of another ACC team that caught Donahue’s attention as to how important non-conference scheduling is.
“I think the mid-majors have figured it out,” Donahue said. “When a 9-7 Boise State from the Mountain West makes the tournament and an 11-7 Virginia from the ACC doesn’t, I think in my position I have to wake up. That’s what we did in analyzing our schedule. I want us to non-conference schedule as good as we can. I don’t want to go 12-1 with our RPI in the triple digits and then have to win 13 games in the ACC.”
Donahue explained that there was a time when being successful in conference play was enough for a high-major to earn a bid into the tournament. Also, there was a time when having 20-plus wins was an automatic ticket puncher. Now, the landscape has changed, and Donahue thinks that you might see even more extreme things happens.
“I said something in a magazine that came out this week in that I believe that a team with an overall losing record can make the NCAA Tournament,” Donahue said. “It sounds crazy, but with these mega-conferences now, it’s possible. If we can be competitive with our tough non-conference schedule and be competitive in our league, then our RPI has a chance to be really high even with a losing record. That’s not what we are planning. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing either that it can happen.”
With the non-conference schedule that Donahue has set up, he might have a point. The Eagles play Providence, UMass, UConn, Washington or Indiana, Purdue, VCU and Harvard out of conference. Each of those teams was picked by at least one preseason publication to make the NCAA Tournament this season.
The other factor in non-conference scheduling that coaches have to be aware of is bringing in interesting opponent for home games or neutral court games in the area. Many teams are struggling with attendance, and bringing in a local low-major punching bag just doesn’t cut it with ticket sales anymore, especially with most of those games available on ESPN3. BC, in particular, has had trouble drawing fans to games as of late going head-to-head against the Celtics and Bruins in the battle for the dollar of Boston sports fans.
“I want to attract as many teams as we can to excite our fanbase,” Donahue said. “I’ve talked about hopefully in the future we can play elite teams in the Garden from around the country.”
Donahue’s goal was to set up a schedule to challenge his team and give it a chance to build a NCAA Tournament résumé. Will the challenging schedule be too much for the team to handle and destroy the confidence of the team early in the year? That remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Donahue is pushing all of his chips into the middle of the table for a NCAA Tournament run.